Growing up, Thanksgiving was one of two completely different holidays. It was either a big meal on a four-day weekend with only my nuclear family…or it was a madhouse of folks somehow distantly related to me and our dozens of “cousins” (which is what we called anyone under 18 for simplicity’s sake) running feral, enough turkey to feed a small country and approximately one pie per person for dessert.
The Thanksgivings we spent with just the five of us were nice. Calm and relaxing. The food was always good, of course. Though without the distraction of other children around, I remember spending half the day “STARVING” while waiting impatiently for dinner to be served (at 4 o’clock) and the other half looking for something to do to get out of my mom’s hair (pretty sure those were her exact words).
But the Thanksgivings we spent with a thousand cousins I’d barely met before? They were exciting. They were crazy and interesting and exhilarating. I hardly noticed we didn’t ever eat lunch because we never stopped running long enough to realize. Plus, all the relatives either brought some fantastically unhealthy appetizer we could snatch as we swooped past, or one of the 75 pies that took over entire tables, so lunch hardly seemed to matter.
It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the quieter Thanksgivings at home. It’s just, at the time, they seemed more like a great four-day weekend off of school with a great big meal thrown in, and not an uber-special holiday.
Now, as the parent of two adorable children (if I do say so myself) who really likes Thanksgiving, I’d like to make it into the uber-special holiday version.
Only, my husband (understandably) refuses to pay gazillions of dollars to travel across the entire country and screw up all our time clocks for only four days when we’re going to be seeing all his relatives in a month anyway…and we just don’t have the extended family close by to create a feral child environment.
In fact, the only extended family we have close by (whom we love dearly) are definitely anti-feral child. More of a…sterile child setting. You know the type: they wake up in the morning with their pajamas looking ironed and not a hair out of place, their houses have never seen a dust bunny much less an entire family of them under each heavy piece of furniture, and a raised voice is quite a shocking thing, whether it be a child who raised the voice or not.
Definitely no feral children.
So I asked the four-year old what we could have to make Thanksgiving EXTRA special. What did he say, no prompting necessary? Banana cream pie. And my husband, he’d really like his favorite lemon meringue this year…and it has been quite awhile since I’ve made it for him, not that he doesn’t understand and all… And my brother would like to contribute a raspberry cheesecake. And my mother’s special is cherry pie. Personally, I love pecan pie and Thanksgiving is the only chance I get to make it, so darn it, I’ll make it! Then again, you can’t not have a pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving… At least I’ve managed to recreate the one pie per person part of my childhood Thanksgivings!
While I do enjoy having my choice of desserts, I decided maybe we should start different traditions that make the day more exciting and rewarding (and perhaps less fattening!), something the kids will cherish and really remember years from now.
This year, we made a runner to decorate the table, that I like to think made the kids feel more of a part of the preparations, and it could be done while the turkey was in the oven!
But I want to know – what makes Thanksgiving special to you? What do you remember most about Thanksgiving growing up? What do you do to pull your kids into the Thanksgiving mood when they can’t become feral?
This post was written by Penney Blakely. Contact Penney at firstname.lastname@example.org
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